Pictured: JWC Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez gets a close look at the department's new boat which will help in rescues. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

$6,000 boat bought with forfeiture fund

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

With record amounts of rain falling in the county so far this year, the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department has purchased a boat to assist with rescue efforts.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Oscar Lopez called the new boat a "tool" that will provide another option to his deputies when they are called to rescue citizens trapped by flood waters.

"Sometimes when we have flooding in Jim Wells County, our cars and trucks cannot go in to where it is flooded," Lopez said. "This is another tool for us."

The 16-foot flat-bottom boat, which is equipped with an outboard motor, was purchased for $6,000 last week using forfeiture funds from the sheriff's department.

Lt. Joe Martinez said the department has traditionally used large trucks to rescue individuals trapped by rising water, but trucks are not always the best option.

"When you get a vehicle to do a rescue, a vehicle can be swept away in two feet of water, so not only are you endangering the lives of the officers, but the lives of the people you are trying to rescue," Martinez said.

"With a boat, you have a higher likelihood that you will be able to go in there and successfully complete the rescue."

Martinez listed a number of areas of the county that are known to flood, including Rancho Alegre, Tecolote, and County Roads 170, 122 and 140.

In addition to concerns about flooding, Martinez said the boat will also be used to assist with rescues that may be needed on Lake Findley and on the portion of Lake Mathis that is inside Jim Wells County.

The boat is currently operational and can be used by specific deputies, Martinez said, although the department plans to cross-train every deputy in how to operate the boat.